25 March 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

A couple weeks ago, Valerie Miles organized a special one-day conference on “Publishing Spanish Writers in English.” It featured a series of interesting, well-designed panels: one with Barbara Epler from New Directions and Jonathan Galassi from FSG talking about editing Spanish-language lit; one on magazines featuring Lorin Stein from The Paris Review, Willing Davidson from the New Yorker, Edwin Frank from NYRB, and Larry Rohter from the New York Times; one on rights with Elizabeth Kerr from Norton, Amy Hundley from Grove, and Anna Soler-Pont from the Pontas Agency; and one on grants with Margaret Carson from the PEN Translation Committee and Amy Stolls from the NEA, and some other speakers and presentations as well. (Also, there was a reception with lots of Spanish wine, where I learned about the El Caganer, Catalonia’s amazing contribution to pooping culture.)

I was invited to be part of the rights panel, mostly to speak about the Translation Database and all the information I could pull from it specific to Spanish-language books in the U.S.

One of the things that I hadn’t really been thinking about is how, now that we have years and years of data, I can use the database to analyze publishing trends from a particular language or area of the world. How the data can map where books are coming from, who’s publishing them in the States, etc. I love running the big, general updates and looking at the overall number of books making their way into English, but anyone interested in this can dig into the data and get a more fine-tuned look at what exactly is going on.

So, in preparation for this conference I ran a bunch of reports and created this workbook covering Spanish-language literature in translation over the past seven-and-a-half years.

This workbook breaks down the number of Spanish-language titles translated into English by year, and compares this figure to the total number of translations published during that same time; it collects data on the country of origin for all of the Spanish books in translation; and it breaks down how many Spanish-language titles individual publishers published during a given year.

You can look through all of that and make your own conclusions, but here’s bulleted-list of things that I took away from this mini-report:

  • Since 2008, the number of translations of fiction and poetry appearing in English for the first time ever (and available in the U.S.) has increased from a low of 48 books (2008) to a high of 71 titles (2013).
  • Excluding data from 2015 (which is incomplete), there is an average of 44 works of fiction published each year, and 14 works of poetry for a total of 58 new titles every year.
  • Spanish has been the second most translated language for five of the past seven years, coming in first in 2009 and third (behind France and Germany) in 2014. France has been the most translated language for six of the seven years, coming in second one time, in 2009.
  • There are more books being translated in 2014 than in 2008 by a significant percentage (a 64% increase over that time), but Spanish really hasn’t kept pace (a 48% increase from 2008 to 2013, when it had its best year).
  • Spanish has made up between 11.19% and 16.90% of all translations published; French has made up between 14.96% and 17.80%.
  • French literature is expanding rapidly, going from 60 books in 2008 to 105 in 2014. Some of this is due to the launch of French-only presses like Gallic Books and Le French, but Spanish has seen the launch of Hispabooks and Cubanabooks, so this doesn’t fully explain the rapid growth for French titles translated into English.
  • In terms of where these Spanish books are coming from, the majority of Spanish titles come from: Spain (117, 27.02% of total), Argentina (101, 23.33%). Mexico (60, 13.86%), and Chile (53, 12.24%). Those four countries account for 76.45% of all Spanish books translated into English.
  • Spain and Argentina have been steadily growing, with Mexico and Chile holding steady.
  • Over the past seven years, commercial presses have accounted for 14.55% of all Spanish translations, whereas independent and university presses make up 85.45%.
  • The number one publisher of Spanish-language literature in English is New Directions with 39 books since 2008. The top seven publishers of Spanish-language literature have brought out 123 books over this time—28% of all the Spanish-language books that made their way into English.

Personally, I’m most interested in the report of where the books are coming from. It’s maybe not surprising that Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile account for such a huge portion of translated books, but wow, are there are lot of countries that must have authors deserving of being translated into English.

Anyway, this is definitely something I want to start doing more of—playing with the data I’ve been collecting to make some interesting findings. Next up, a breakdown of how many women writers get translated and where they’re from . . .

14 August 12 | Aleksandra Fazlipour | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Pierce Alquist on Rómulo Gallegos’s Doña Barbara, which is translated from the Spanish by Robert Malloy and is available from The University of Chicago Press Books.

Any author who has been both nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature and exiled from his country because of the strength of his criticisms against the nation’s longstanding dictatorship deserves to be taken note of. Rómulo Gallegos in his acclaimed novel, Doña Barbara, hailed as a classic of Latin American literature, is one such author, almost forgotten by English speaking readers since his initial popularity in the 1930’s. In the University of Chicago’s recent reprint, Gallegos receives the credit due to him as a Nobel Prize nominee, the first democratically elected President of Venezuela, and forerunner of magical realism, with Larry McMurty writing in his foreword to the novel, “There are echoes of Gallegos in García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, and Fuentes.” In Doña Barbara, Gallegos weaves together the story of the Venezuelan llano, or prairie, and the lives of the plainsmen, the ranchers and cowboys, thieves and villains, that all operate around Doña Barbara, the witch.

The novel revolves around the llano, and its significance to two feuding cousins with vast ranching estates. Doña Barbara, a treacherously beautiful rancher has steadily expanded her estate over the years through her calculating manipulation and seduction of men, furthering her reputation as a witch with her nightly conversations with her “Partner,” the devil. These corrupt dealings committed by Barbara and the mismanagement of land, wealth, and justice by government officials in the novel represent many of Gallegos’ criticisms against the Venezuelan dictatorship. When her cousin, Santos Luzardo, returns from his many years in the city to reclaim his land and ranch, a struggle ensues that jeopardizes the fate of the llano. The struggle is one of violence and seduction, as McMurty perfectly describes it, Gallegos’ llano is “steamy, tumescent, lust driven.” Furthermore, the llano is spilling over with all sorts of unimaginable occupants characteristic of early magical realism, like the prehistoric one-eyed alligator and various villains like the Turk and his harem, the Toad, the Wizard, and a cowboy assassin…

Click here to read the entire review.

27 July 12 | Aleksandra Fazlipour |

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Pierce Alquist on Manuela Fingueret’s Daughter of Silence, which is translated from the Spanish by Darrell B. Lockhart and is available from Texas Tech University Press.

This is Pierce’s first review for threepercent. Pierce is a student at the University of Rochester majoring in English Literature, minoring in Journalism and Anthropology. She has interned at various publishing companies, with publications ranging from magazines to academic works, and now translated literature. After studying abroad this past semester at Oxford she is happy to return to her native Rochester.

Here is part of her review:

Acclaimed Argentinean poet and novelist Manuela Fingueret details the 1980’s neofascist military dictatorship in Argentina and its dark, painful parallels to the Holocaust through the tales and memories of a mother and daughter in her second novel Daughter of Silence. Translated by Darrell B. Lockhart, Daughter of Silence is a crucial addition to “The Americas” series of contemporary Latin American literature published by Texas Tech University Press, for its exploration of violence, national identity, and survival. Fingueret depicts the tradition of a silent female figure, mute and helpless throughout history, and drastically refutes it with the voice of her narrator Rita, a young Jewish Argentinean and incarcerated Peronist revolutionary. Abused, starved, and rapidly losing her mind, Rita weaves together both her memories and the experiences of her mother, Tinkeleh, a Holocaust survivor.

A poignant portrayal of women, Daughter of Silence illustrates these parallels between the Holocaust and Argentina’s political past, while also exploring the unique dichotomy between being Jewish and living in Latin America, a primarily Catholic nation. According to Lockhart in his introduction to the text, “Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America and one of the largest in the world” and the text explores the complexities of a divided national and religious identity. Rita also meditates on the controversial links between the Holocaust and her Jewish identity, and her imprisonment as a Peronist rebel, warning that history is in a constant state of repetition. In a moment of vulnerability Rita details her path to incarceration and its correlation to her mother’s path to the Holocaust, one of marginalization and silence. She counts the strikes against her, her religion, her culture, her politics, and ultimately her sex:

Click here to read the entire review.

27 July 12 | Aleksandra Fazlipour | Comments

Acclaimed Argentinean poet and novelist Manuela Fingueret details the 1980’s neofascist military dictatorship in Argentina and its dark, painful parallels to the Holocaust through the tales and memories of a mother and daughter in her second novel Daughter of Silence. Translated by Darrell B. Lockhart, Daughter of Silence is a crucial addition to “The Americas” series of contemporary Latin American literature published by Texas Tech University Press, for its exploration of violence, national identity, and survival. Fingueret depicts the tradition of a silent female figure, mute and helpless throughout history, and drastically refutes it with the voice of her narrator Rita, a young Jewish Argentinean and incarcerated Peronist revolutionary. Abused, starved, and rapidly losing her mind, Rita weaves together both her memories and the experiences of her mother, Tinkeleh, a Holocaust survivor.

A poignant portrayal of women, Daughter of Silence illustrates these parallels between the Holocaust and Argentina’s political past, while also exploring the unique dichotomy between being Jewish and living in Latin America, a primarily Catholic nation. According to Lockhart in his introduction to the text, “Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America and one of the largest in the world” and the text explores the complexities of a divided national and religious identity. Rita also meditates on the controversial links between the Holocaust and her Jewish identity, and her imprisonment as a Peronist rebel, warning that history is in a constant state of repetition. In a moment of vulnerability Rita details her path to incarceration and its correlation to her mother’s path to the Holocaust, one of marginalization and silence. She counts the strikes against her, her religion, her culture, her politics, and ultimately her sex:

A space for the abused and desperate. Peronism was the ideal place in which to orient those feelings. The Peronism of passion, of mysticism, of marginalization, of prominence. Jew and Peronist. Peronist and Jew. Woman, Jew, and Peronist. A triple provocation. The stories of concentration camps that I tried to decipher between books and whispers among family members became an undeniable obsession. All the barriers that Tinkeleh put in place with her silence made my journey inevitable. (78)

Fingueret’s prose captures Rita’s desperate, winding thoughts as she navigates her imprisonment and clings to her memories to maintain her sanity. In her rapidly declining state, however, she finds solace in piecing together her mother’s unspoken memories of the Holocaust. Whether this imagined world is healthy or another tax on her already damaged mental state is left undiscussed, but Rita uses these imagined memories to connect to her mother and other resilient women, etching their names on her cell walls for inspiration.

Rita’s story is told through fragments, becoming increasingly disorienting as her abuse escalates. In any lesser author’s hands, this disorientation would merely result in a reader’s confusion but Fingueret instead artfully references Rita’s fragile mental state, with the spaces between the text, the silence, telling more of Rita’s struggle than her words alone. Rita herself is insightfully portrayed, surrounded by the impassioned idealism of the Peronists around her, and struggling to connect with a distant, silent mother, she discovers in prison the deeper similarities between herself, Tinkeleh, and generations of other women, forced into the bind of silence and obedience but driven to survive.

The novel ends uncertainly, as Rita is transferred from her prison, defiantly looking at the blank expanse of her future:

I stretch my body across the void. I see a lot, I hear too much, I file and file, thousands of voices, ages, hair colors, professions, addresses: Auschwitz in Buenos Aires. These women console me. They know as well as I do where this train is headed. Did I get off at the wrong station? I have no regrets. (147)

Despite its difficult subject matter, the book concludes with some remnants of hope, as Rita’s resilience stands as a testament to the strength and will to survive of generations of women. The deep unsettling connections allow Fingueret to create a wholly new Argentinean novel, exploring the relationship between Judaism and Latin America, women and their tradition of silence, and ultimately calling for a clearer understanding of the nature of history.

....
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